To the 5G and Beyond: FWA, Network Slicing, Private 5G and the Rise of 6G
by Dominik Ogrodnik, Solutions Architect at Amartus
5G (which is short for the 5th generation of cellular networks based on new radio frequencies) allows for large volumes of data transfer (by “large” we mean it’s up to 100 times faster than the current 4th generation) and minimal latency. Its rapid growth and worldwide deployment enable some highly innovative products and services, such as Fixed Wireless Access, Private 5G, and Network Slicing. This post will look into what exactly those concepts are and discuss some real-life use cases. We’ll also investigate the rise of the 6G network and the possible direction it may take.
Fixed Wireless Access: Unlocking new revenue opportunities for operators
Let’s start with Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), an intersection of mobile technology and fixed-line services’ demands. Fixed Wireless Access enables operators to deliver high-speed broadband where fiber is not economically justified. Previously deployed technologies like WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) attempted to bypass this problem but failed because they required expensive equipment and dedicated infrastructure. FWA based on 4G/LTE was also tested but turned out to be inefficient and very expensive to deploy. 5G’s advance is significant in this meaning as it is based on standardized architecture and hardware equipment. FWA is perceived as one of the most attractive 5G use cases, and, for many operators, might be the service that will pay for the investment in 5G infrastructure. It opens new revenue streams and widens the reach of the traditional fixed network. Ultra-high-speed broadband provided by FWA enables new quality of gaming, video broadcasting, and security services. And that’s something consumers will gladly pay for.
A slice of network = a piece of cake?
Another key concept that is enabled by the architecture of 5G is network slicing. It allows for the multiplexing of independent virtualized networks on the same physical network infrastructure. Network slices are isolated and provide resources (bandwidth, latency, edge computing resources) requested by a particular application. This brings the most tailored solution for specific industries – e.g., smart cars might require a low latency and edge computing resources. Slices can also be created on physical infrastructure spanning multiple local or national network operators, thus enhancing service continuity.
- Extreme Mobile Broadband (eMBB) – data-driven, often video-centric, consuming a lot of bandwidth
- Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) – Internet of Things use cases, connecting a large number of devices in a small area
- Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) – use cases that have very strict latency requirements like remote surgery, autonomous vehicles, or the Tactile Internet.
What is the Tactile Internet?
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines the Tactile Internet as an internet network that combines ultra-low latency with extremely high availability, reliability, and security. It enables IoT control and communication in real-time – things like, for example, the sense of touch are transmitted over long distances, with or without visual feedback. It’s a way to revolutionize the whole industry – one can control his machine from the other part of the world the same way as if he was standing right next to it.
Private 5G – fast & secure WLAN
Last but not least, there is private 5G service. Private 5G is an emerging use case for 5G in the local area network based on 5G technologies to create a dedicated, secure network within a specific area. It will deliver speed & latency provided by 5G to support next-gen applications. 5G private networks are deployed by the owner, dedicated, and independently managed. Although public 5G deployment is not that common yet, enterprises are already taking advantage of its benefits by private 5G deployment.
The perfect use case for private 5G is a factory – sensors installed on and near the production line monitor the environment, equipment, and the products for quality control are all connected within the private 5G, which makes the whole communication fast, wireless, and secure. Among first production companies that decided to take advantage of this new technology is Whirlpool. One of their plants, located in Ohio, has troubles every time the Wi-Fi signal degrades (which happens quite often) because all of their driverless vehicles on-site navigate on Wi-Fi. Vehicles themselves are agnostic to the network they’re on, so with the help of AT&T and Seegrid (the company producing the vehicles), Whirlpool is working on converting connectivity from Wi-Fi to private 5G.
What comes next?
Even though 5G is still perceived to be in its initial stage, corporations like Samsung already started researching and preparing for the next generation of cellular networks. In their whitepaper, Samsung expects that mass commercialization of 6G may happen around 2030 so 10 years from now. Three main services that will emerge due to 6G are:
- Truly Immersive XR (Extended Reality) – a combination of VR, AR and mixed reality (MR). The main obstacle between the possibilities and reality of XR is hardware. XR requires advanced technology devices to support fast developing software components. Another challenge is required wireless capacity – the current 5G rate is not enough to support seamless XR streaming.
- Virtual Replica – a physical object replicated in a virtual world. It could be a device, system, vehicle, or even a person! Virtual replica will open an endless sea of possibilities to improve manufacturing, healthcare, and many other industries.
- High-Fidelity Mobile Hologram – a next-generation technology able to display gestures and facial expressions using a 3D rendering technique. An extremely high data rate transmission, much more powerful than 5G capabilities, will be required to provide a real-time mobile holographic service.
It is expected that the market sizes for VR and AR will reach $44.7 billion and $87 billion, respectively, by 2030
5G offers new opportunities for every industry on the planet, as connectivity is a universal need and requirement, especially in today’s world. Enterprises need to adapt fast and, even though the price of innovating might seem high, the cost of lost opportunities and staying behind the competition can be much higher. If you wish to find out how 5G and its many incarnations can be of help at your company, drop us a line at email@example.com and let’s figure this out together.